ANJOMAN (Organization)


ANJOMAN (gathering, association, society), general designation of many private and public associations:

i. Political (anǰoman-e sīāsī).

ii. Religious (anǰoman-e maḏhabī).

iii. Literary (anǰoman-e adabī).


i. Political

Anǰoman was the designation of political organizations during the Constitutional Revolution of 1324-27/1906-09. Some contemporary Iranian scholars compare it to the Russian soviet, or council, which was established by Russian revolutionaries at the turn of the century (H. Nāṭeq, “Anǰomanhā-ye šūrāʾī dar enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat,” Alefbā, N.S., 4, 1362 Š./1983, p. 53). According to F. Ādamīyat, in the early 1900s translators of Russian works used the term anǰoman for soviet to emphasize the similarities between the two organizations (Fekr-e demokrāsī-e e eǰtemāʿī dar nahżat-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran. 1356 Š./1975, p. 36). But the idea of secret groupings for political action, religio-political movements, or revolt, has a long tradition in Iran. In the second half of the 19th century, during the long reign of Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah (1264-1313/1848-96), reform-minded intellectuals, government officials, and members of the mercantile class, and of the ʿolamāʾ formed loosely defined, often secret, associations with the purpose of formulating and disseminating their socio-political and cultural views. The best known was Maǰmaʿ-e ādamīyat, also known as Farāmūš-ḵāna, founded by Mīrzā Malkom Khan (1249-1326/1833-1908) in 1858 on the model of European Freemasonic lodges, with secret cells and a hierarchy of leadership. A. de Gobineau considered it as a mere imitation of French Freemasonry (Religions et Philosophie dans l’Asie Centrale, Paris, 1865, p. 306), while according to H. Algar it was just a means to achieve worldly ends and to introduce Western ideas into Iran (Mīrzā Malkum Khān: A Biographical Study in Iranian Modernism, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1973, chap. 2). In fact it had no formal ties with any European organization and pursued an independent nationalist reform program. At first it enjoyed the support of Nāṣer-al-dīn Shah and recruited its members from among the influential government circles and ruling classes. It is reported that it cultivated the support of liberal ʿolamāʾ such as Sayyed Ṣādeq Ṭabāṭabāʾī, the father of Sayyed Moḥammad Ṭabāṭabāʾī, a foremost leader of the Constitutional Revolution (Ādamīyat, Andīša-ye taraqqī wa ḥokūmat-e qānūn: ʿAṣr-e Sepahsālār, Tehran, 1972, p. 68; Algar, Religion and State in Iran 1785-1906: The Role of the Ulama in the Qajar Period, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1969, pp. 191-92). Rapidly, however, Malkom’s humanist and modern ideals attracted the hostility of the conservative ʿolamāʾ and the Farāmūš-ḵāna was accused of disseminating corrupt ideas, sheltering infidels, promoting harmony between Muslims and non-Muslims, and, above all, constituting religious innovation contrary to Islamic precepts (Ādamīyat, Andīša-ye taraqqī, pp. 69-75). It was closed down by order of the Shah in 1861, and shortly afterward Malkom was banished to Iraq.

While in exile in London, he claimed to have set up the Jāmeʿa-ye Ādamīyat with the purpose of disseminating the new religion he allegedly had founded, the “religion of humanity.” We have no records on this organization, nor was there a list of its members apart from scant references found in his correspondence with Iranian collaborators such as Mīrzā Āqā Khan Kermānī who was in charge of distributing Malkom’s paper Qānūn in Turkey and Iran (M. Bayat, “Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani, a Nineteenth Century Persian Nationalist,” Middle Eastern Studies 10, 1974, pp. 36-59). Malkom failed in any prophetic ambitions that he might have entertained, but he was more successful in encouraging secularist cultural programs and political action, as his idea of worldly reforms “clothed in the garb of religion” (reported by W. S. Blunt, The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt, London, 1907, p. 83) was enthusiastically adopted by some other secret societies which came to play a more direct role in Iranian politics of the day.

Anǰomans proliferated by the turn of the century, with many involved in cultural activities and scattered in the major cities of the country. Some were established to carry on the task of “awakening” the Iranians, setting up new secular schools, and founding public libraries. The best known was Anǰoman-e Maʿāref, founded in Tehran in 1315/1897 under the patronage of the prime minister Mīrzā ʿAlī Khan Amīn-al-dawla. Its membership list, which included a number of intellectuals such as ʿAlī Khan Nāẓem-al-ʿolūm, Mahdī Khan Momtaḥan-al-dawla, Yaḥyā Dawlatābādī, Ḥāǰǰ Moḥammad-Ḥasan Amīn-al-żarb and his son, Ḥāǰǰ Moḥammad-Ḥosayn (Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran, n.d., I, p. 259; Y. Dawlatābādī, Tārīḵ-e moʿāṣer yā ḥayāt-e Yaḥyā, Tehran, n.d., I, pp. 79-198; see also A. Maǰd-al-eslām Kermānī, Tārīḵ-e enḥelāl-e maǰles, Isfahan, 1968, pp. 166-67; Ḥ. Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, Tārīḵ-e moʾassasāt-e tamaddonī-e ǰadīd dar Īrān I, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975, pp. 369-70). It set up a number of new schools, founded a public library (Ketāb-ḵāna-ye mellī), in its main office, and made efforts to create a translation and publication center and to found a printing firm. However, already plagued by internal strife and rivalries, it did not last long after the fall of its patron Amīn-al-dawla (1316/1898) and was eventually replaced by Šūrā-ye Maʿāref in 1319/1901. At the same time, a library established by the Tarbīat brothers ʿAlī-Moḥammad Khan and Mīrzā Moḥammad-ʿAlī Khan became the meeting place of intellectuals like S. Ḥ. Taqīzāda, and Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Eʿteṣām-at-molk who, together, published a bi-weekly paper called Ganǰīna-ye fonūn (A. K. S. Lambton, “The Secret Societies and the Persian Revolution of 1905-06,” St. Anthony’s Papers IV, 1958, p. 52; K. Ṭāherzāda Behzād, Qīām-e Āḏarbāyǰān dar enqelāb-e Mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran, n.d., pp. 409, 463-64). On the eve of the revolution other individuals were involved in establishing other, more politically active, secret societies. The Anǰoman-e Eslāmī, founded by Mīrzā Naṣrallāh Malek-al-motakallemīn and Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ Eṣfahānī, and the Anǰoman-e Maḵfī (Secret Society), founded in 1322/1904 by Nāẓem-al-eslām Kermānī are the best known, since their activities are chronicled in the standard accounts of the revolution by Nāẓem-al-eslām himself and Malek-al-motakallemīn’s son, Mahdī Malekzāda. They both, together with Yaḥyā Dawlatābādī, who wrote his own eye-witness account of the revolution, were the chief architects of the alliance forged between Sayyed Moḥammad Ṭabāṭabāʾī and Sayyed ʿAbdallāh Behbahānī, who initiated the first phase of the movement that eventually led to the promulgation of the Constitution and the establishment of the majlis in 1906. However, the accuracy of their accounts in accrediting their respective anǰomans with such a major role in bringing about the revolution remains to be more thoroughly investigated.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ, Mīrzā Naṣrallāh Malek-al-motakallemīn, Shaikh Aḥmad Maǰd-al-eslām Kermānī and Dawlatābādī, among others, had founded in Isfahan a secret anǰoman that met regularly in private homes and set up a school to promote modern education. They were soon charged with heresy, and a number of them were expelled from the city (Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb I, pp. 251-52). Back in Isfahan around 1900, Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ, Malek-al-motakallemīn, and Maǰd-al-eslām collaborated in writing Roʾyā-ye ṣādeqa, a fiery anticlerical polemic that gained notoriety through clandestine circulation (Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb I, p. 200; Idem., Zendagānī-e Malek-al-motakallemīn, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, pp. 57-64; the complete text or Roʾyā is reprinted in E. Yaḡmāʾī, ed., Šahīd-e rāh-e āzādī: Sayyed Jamāl Wāʿeẓ Eṣfahānī, Tehran, 1978, pp. 306-36). In 1900-01, both Malek-al-motakallemīn and Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ played a leading role in founding the Šerkat-e Eslāmī, a commercial company (not an anǰoman as asserted by Lambton, “Secret Societies,” p. 51) financed by a wealthy Isfahani merchant-entrepreneur, Ḥāǰǰ Moḥammad-Ḥosayn Kāzerūnī, to promote the textile products of his company and seek, through the two preachers, the religious sanctioning of national industry against European imports (Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ, Lebās al-taqwā, lithograph, Shiraz, n.d.; see also Yaḡmāʾī, Šahīd, pp. 6-11).

In Tehran, an organization referred to in sources as the Revolutionary Committee first met on 12 Rabīʿ I 1322/28 May 1904 and pursued its activities, as recorded in Malekzāda’s account, through the various phases of the revolution. It enjoyed a broader based membership that included Zoroastrians, a tribal leader, merchants, ʿolamāʾ, and lower ranking government officials. Some members, such as Moḥammad-Reżā Mosāwāt, Yaḥyā Dawlatābādī, Ḥāǰǰ Abu’l-Ḥasan Mīrzā Šayḵ-al-raʾīs, Aḥmad Maǰd-al-eslām Kermānī, Mahdī Baḥr-al-ʿolūm Kermānī, Mīrzā Ḥasan Rošdīya, Mīrzā Jahāngīr Khan Šīrāzī, were to play important parts in the revolution (Malekzāda, Zendagānī, pp. 152-55; Idem, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb II, pp. 8-10; see also E. Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton, 1982, pp. 78-79). Later, as the movement for revolution gained momentum, the Anǰoman-e Maḵfī underwent adjustment, and in January, 1906, following the ʿolamāʾs return from their first bast (sanctuary) in the shrine of Shah ʿAbd-al-ʿAẓīm south of Tehran, it was declared defunct, and replaced by a second anǰoman, which retained a number of the old members in addition to new recruits (Nāẓem-al-eslām, Tārīḵ-e bīdārī, ed. M. Hāšemī Kermānī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967, II, pp. 223-25, 340). No list is provided, and references to its activities, which intensified during the second bast in Qom in July, 1906, are anonymous. Thus it appears that the anǰomans, under the leadership of the same individuals, gradually evolved through distinct phases from cultural societies with strong anti-clerical overtones to emerge as more pragmatic, politically oriented organizations aiming at broadening the base of their appeal, forging new alignments, and coordinating political action through a vast underground network reaching all levels of government and religious circles, the bazaar and the professional guilds. They wrote broadsheets, printed and distributed them; and they sponsored fiery sermons in mosques and madrasas. According to Nāẓem-al-eslām and Malekzāda, the two anǰomans were highly successful in coordinating the efforts of Behbahānī and Ṭabāṭabāʾī (see., e.g., Tārīḵ-e bīdārī II, pp. 222, 236-37; Malekzāda, Tārīḵ-e enqelāb II, pp. 73-79). Furthermore, in order to exert better control on the religious circles, a new anǰoman, the Anǰoman-e Etteḥādīya-ye Ṭollāb, was founded and put under Malek-al-motakallemīn’s leadership. It recruited from among the madrasa’s students, and proved to be vital in exerting pressure on the high ranking ʿolamāʾ to resist government’s conciliatory overtures (Tārīḵ-e bīdārī II, pp. 141-44).

H. Nāṭeq alleges that a secret Bābī anǰoman was founded at about that time, without giving any details (“Anǰomanhā,” p. 51). Similarly, E. Ṣafāʾī claims that the activities of Malek-al-motakallemīn and other Azalīs were motivated by a desire to realize the Bābī dream of establishing the rule of the Bābī holy book, the Bayān (Ṣafāʾī, Rahbarān-e mašrūṭa, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965, pp. 10-11). But neither one produces any evidence. In fact, the Anǰoman-e Maḵfī and the Revolutionary Committee, which included a large number of Azalī members, had secular, nationalist characteristics, with members from among the ʿolamāʾ as well as from Zoroastrian, Christian, and Jewish communities, and emphasized the national character of the homeland. Both welcomed western concepts and ideas, but blended them with Islamic rhetoric, thus equating mašrūṭīyat with mašrūʿīyat, in keeping with Malkom Khan’s practice of seeking “reformation clothed in the garb of religion.”

At the time of the second bast both anǰomans worked in alliance with a more moderate society which was composed mainly of foreign-educated Iranian bureaucrats. Mīrzā ʿAbbās-qolī Khan Qazvīnī, a senior government official and close friend of Malkom Khan, had established the Jāmeʿa-ye Ādamīyat based on the latter’s ideals. Ṣanīʿ-al-dawla, Saʿd-al-dawla, Eḥtešāmal-salṭana, and Solaymān Mīrzā Eskandarī and his brothers figured among the original members (F. Ādamīyat, Fekr-e āzādī wa moqaddama-ye nahżat-e mašrūṭīyat, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, pp. 206-44). This new alliance was most fruitful in organizing the bast in the British Embassy which housed a crowd of ten to fourteen thousand people for one month. The allied anǰomans “educated” the bastīs as to the merit of a constitutional monarchy and representative government. It was the bastīs of the Embassy who demanded from the government the establishment of a National Consultative Assembly (Maǰles-e Šūrā-ye Mellī), and pressed the bastīs in Qom to make identical demands.

In Tabrīz anǰomans were created on the eve of the revolution, and rapidly assumed a leading role in the major political events of Azerbaijan. A group of twelve men, headed by a merchant by the name of ʿAlī Karbalāʾī (nicknamed “Monsieur” for his interest in French literature) founded the Markaz-e Ḡaybī. It established close ties with the Social Democratic Party (Ḥezb-e Eǰtemāʿīyūn-e ʿĀmmīyūn) of Baku, which was founded by Iranian Azerbaijani émigrés and was active among Iranian workers in the oil fields (Abrahamian, Iran, pp. 76-77). In 1905 the Social Democratic Party set up its own Tabrīz anǰoman, which maintained its links with the original Baku party and reflected identical social-democratic radicalism (Kasravī, Mašrūṭa, Tehran, 1974, p. 167). According to Nāṭeq, the Anǰoman-e Tabrīz, which was to play the all-important role in the revolution following the establishment of the first majlis, was founded by the same leaders of the Social Democratic Party in 1906, not in October after the bast at Tabrīz, as Kasravī maintains, but a month and a half earlier (see Nāṭeq, “Anǰomanhā,” p. 53; N. Fatḥī, Soḵangūyān-e segāna-ye Āḏarbāyǰān dar enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran, 1977, pp. 53-54). The Anǰoman-e Tabrīz, which was in fact a broader extension of the Social Democratic Party, incorporated a small secret society which was active years earlier and was anti-clerical and had secular-nationalist characteristics. It also opened several branches in Azerbaijan and Gīlān. It had its own printing press and published its own broadsheets and its newspaper, first called Jarīda-ye mellī and then Rūz-nāma-ye Anǰoman.

With the promulgation of the Constitution in August, 1906, and the establishment of the majlis, the anǰomans proliferated. In Tehran alone 120 (or 200 by another account) new anǰomans were established between 1906 and 1909 (Nāṭeq, “Anǰomanhā,” p. 51). They represented the various professions and guilds, geographic regions, city quarters, religious minorities, or interest groups, forming alliances not intended to outlive an immediate political goal. Their ideological stand ranged from radical, such as the Revolutionary Committee, the Anǰoman-e Tabrīz, and the Barādarān-e Darvāza-ye Qazvīn, to reactionary, such as the Anǰoman-e Eslāmī, founded under the auspices of Shaikh Fażlallāh Nūrī and fellow anti-constitutionalist ʿolamāʾ, with branches in Tehran, Tabrīz, and other cities. The Anǰoman-e Tabrīz with its two militant centers in Tabrīz and Tehran, due to its direct contact with Russian revolutionaries in the Caucasus who provided it with weapons, slogans, and moral support, emerged as the most determined, best led, and best equipped political organization. In the capital this anǰoman and its allies, the Revolutionary Committee and the Barādarān-e Darvāza-ye Qazvīn, came to dominate the majlis and attempted to enforce its views against the no less fierce opposition of the more conservative and the reactionary groups. Malek-al-motakallemīn, Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn Wāʿeẓ, Jahāngīr Khan, Mosāwāt, Solaymān Eskandarī, and a handful of other radicals, formed a so called Anǰoman-e Markazī, or Central Anǰoman. Maǰd-al-eslām, in an illuminating account of the Anǰoman’s activities (Enḥelāl-e maǰles, pp. 41-56) claims the Central Anǰoman under Malek-al-motakallemīn’s supreme control assumed arbitrarily absolute power over all anǰomans. This anǰoman took over the task of ensuring public safety, and armed its own street gangs to patrol the city. The radicalization of the anǰomans provoked a strong reaction among court officials, who then began to infiltrate their ranks in order to gather information on their activities, and even acted as “agents provocateurs” to precipitate the downfall of the majlis (ibid., pp. 53-56, 81-86, 89-91; Y. Dawlatābādī, Ḥayāt-e Yaḥyā II, pp. 160-61 ). Tension arose in the city as the radical anǰomans, dissatisfied with the moderate stand of the majlis deputies and fearing possible backlash on the part of the reactionaries, organized and trained militias to defend the Constitution (see “Secret Reports,” in Yaḡmāʾī, Šahīd, pp. 279-85, and speeches of Sayyed Jamāl-al-dīn, ibid., pp. 102-223). The situation alarmed the British Minister in Tehran, who wrote to London about the increasing contacts between some of the anǰomans and the revolutionaries in the Caucasus, explaining that Iran was developing a national resistance movement akin to its northern neighbor’s (C. Spring-Rice to Grey, 23 May 1907, H. Moʿāṣer tr., Tārīḵ-e esteqrār-e mašrūṭīyat dar Īrān, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968, p. 341).

In Tabrīz the anǰoman assumed political authority over local affairs in the province, and often bypassed Tehran’s rulings. It enacted its own laws, set up its own courts to ensure their proper application. It turned increasingly anti-clerical, secular-nationalist, and even, according to Nāṭeq, anti-monarchical (“Anǰomanhā,” pp. 57-59). When, in its crackdown on the inflation which was rampant, it ordered the expulsion of the Emām-e Jomʿa and the moǰtahed Ḥāǰǰ Mīrzā Ḥasan Āqā from the city for their illegal role in hoarding wheat and raising its price, the moderate elements in the majlis in Tehran ordered the anǰoman to close down. But the majlis had no power to enforce its commands. A general strike was declared in Tabrīz, which, in addition to the strong protest of the majlis’s radicals led by Ḥ. Taqīzāda, the Tabrīz deputy, forced the moderates to give up. The Anǰoman-e Tabrīz resumed its activities.

The majlis’s promulgation in spring, 1907, of new rules to regulate the activities of the anǰomans was of no avail. They intensified their activities as crucial issues severely split the ranks of the constitutionalists: the drafting of the new Supplement to the Constitution; the separation of government from religious courts; the return to power of Mīrzā ʿAlī-Aṣḡar Khan Amīn-al-solṭān (the former prime minister) and his subsequent assassination by a radical member of the Anǰoman-e Tabrīz. The secularists’ impatience with continued influence of the ʿolamāʾ in the majlis, and the ʿolamāʾ’s growing fear of the “irreligious” tendencies in national politics, played into the hands of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah, who engineered the coup against the majlis in June, 1908.

The Anǰoman-e Tabrīz took over the task of organizing a nationalist resistance, but not before undergoing change of leadership. An alliance of local gang leaders with Armenian and Caucasian fighters successfully resisted the royalist troops sent against Tabrīz. However, when the constitution was restored and the second majlis convened in August, 1909, the anǰomans had lost ground and were replaced with more formal, better coordinated, and ideologically more cohesive parties.



See also M. Kaṯīrāʾī, Frāmāsonrī dar Īrān, Tehran, 1968.

E. Rāʾīn, Anǰomanhā-ye serrī dar enqelāb-e mašrūṭīyat-e Īrān, Tehran, 1966.

Idem, Farāmūš-ḵāna va frāmāsonrī dar Īrān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1357 Š./1978.

(M. Bayat)

ii. Religious

Islamic organizations of a cultural, educational, and sometimes political nature, were active in Iran and among Iranian students abroad from 1942 on. Addressing themselves largely to persons without formal religious education, they have sought to present Islam as a religion compatible with modernity and science and, more recently, as a revolutionary socio-political system. These associations began their activity soon after the abdication of Reżā Shah in 1320 Š./1941, their immediate forerunner being the Kānūn-e Eslām founded that year in Tehran by Āyatallāh Maḥmūd Ṭālaqānī. The Kānūn-e Eslām was devoted primarily to the study of the Koran and published a periodical called Dānešāmūz. The following year, some former members of Kānūn-e Eslām who were students at Tehran University’s Faculty of Medicine established a university Anǰoman-e Eslāmī-e Dānešǰūyān (Islamic Students’ Association). Its chief patron was Mahdī Bāzargān, a professor at the university; he was soon joined in guiding its activities by Ṭālaqānī and Yadallāh Saḥābī among others. According to Bāzargān (Modāfaʿāt dar dādgāh-e ḡayr-e ṣāleḥ-e taǰdīd-e naẓar-e neẓāmī, n.p., 1350 Š./1971, p. 79), the association first came into being to counteract anti-Islamic activities conducted at the university by Bahaʾis and members of the Tūda (Communist) Party and to provide support for Islamically-oriented students, then a minority among the student body. According to the association’s platform (marām-nama), its chief goals were (1) the reform of Iranian society in accordance with Islamic precepts, (2) the fostering of close ties among all Muslims, especially young intellectuals, (3) the propagation of Islam by means of the spoken and written word, and (4) the struggle against superstitious distortions of Islam.

Similar student associations came into being in major provincial cities. In 1946, Moḥammad-Taqī Šarīʿatī founded the Kānūn-e Naṣr-e Ḥa q āʾeq-e Eslāmī (Center for the Propagation of Islamic Truths) in Mašhad, this organization, like Ṭālaqānī’s Kānūn-e Eslām, was dedicated to teaching the Koran to the young in a nontraditional fashion. When the first members of this group entered Mašhad University, they founded the Islamic Students’ Association of Mašhad. In 1949, a similar association was founded in Shiraz and included high school as well as university students among its members; at about the same time, an association also came into being in Tabrīz under the leadership of Yūsof Šeʿār. Further expansion occurred as members of the Islamic students’ associations were graduated from the universities and went on to found a series of Islamic professional associations, the most important being those of the doctors, engineers, and teachers. For many years, possibly the major activity of both student and professional associations was the organizing of lectures, many of which were later published in book form. Most of the writings of Bāzargān, for example, had their origin in lectures delivered to the Islamic associations. Other lecturers included Ḥabīballāh Āmūzgār, Ṣadr Balāḡī, Reżāzāda Šafaq, Ṭālaqānī, and Mortażā Moṭṭaharī. The associations also published a periodical entitled Ganǰ-e šāygān. The intellectual impact of all this activity was considerable; it can be said that the associations laid the foundations of the modern Islamic movement in Iran.

The content of the lectures and publications was cultural and educational; political activity appears to have been discouraged. Addressing the second national congress of Islamic associations in 1962, Bāzargān reminded those present that the associations were apolitical in nature and criticized those who, eve in good faith, sought to carry on political activity within their framework (Marz-e mīān-e dīn sīāsī, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962, pp. 3, 20-21, 51). When tried the following year for political offenses, Bāzargān was accused of using the Islamic associations as a cover for the activities of the Nahżat-e Āzādī-e Īrān (Freedom Movement of Iran). The charge was baseless insofar as there was a complete organizational separation between the two, but there was considerable overlapping of membership, with Bāzargān and other prominent Nahżat-e Āzādī members playing an important role in the associations; moreover, the view of Islam as a complete and self-sufficient ideology that the associations promoted doubtless predisposed their members to political activity.

More overtly political than the Islamic associations within Iran were, from their very inception, the Islamic associations of Iranian students abroad. The first was organized in 1959 n Washington, D.C. by Ṣādeq Qoṭbzāda. There was little response to his initiative, and the majority of politically active Muslim students remained within the Iranian Student Confederation, at that time an ideologically neutral body. In 1964, however, most Muslims left the Confederation because of what they regarded as its inadequate response to the uprising of Ḵordād, 1342 Š./June, 1963. Under the leadership of Moṣṭafā Čamrān and Ebrāhīm Yazdī they organized the Islamic Students’ Association of America and Canada. This organization was formally incorporated into the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) of the United States and Canada, which had recently been established by Arab and Pakistani students in the United States, and became designated as the “Persian-speaking group” of the parent organization. While affiliation with the MSA provided a useful security cover, the Iranian organization retained its autonomy at all times. When the parent organization began receiving funds from Saudi Arabia and the Iranians moved increasingly in the direction of revolutionary political activity, tensions emerged between the “Persian-speaking group” and the MSA and culminated in a complete break in 1978. The official English designation of the Islamic Students’ Association has remained, however, Muslim Students’ Association (Persian-Speaking Group).

Islamic student associations also emerged among Iranian students in Europe. The first traces of scattered activity in England and Germany are encountered in 1960; four years later, the Etteḥādīya-ye Anǰomanhā-ye Eslāmī-e Dānešǰūyān dar Orūpā (Federation of Students’ Islamic Associations in Europe) was founded. Like its North American counterpart, it was linked to a supranational organization, the United Muslim Students’ Organization in Europe. In 1967, it began publishing a quarterly journal, Eslām: maktab-e mobārez, which later became the joint organ of the European and North American associations.

The Islamic student associations in Europe and North America both supported and mirrored political and ideological developments in Iran; they espoused, for example, the cause of the Moǰāhedīn-e Ḵalq during their early years and widely distributed the works of ʿAlī Šarīʿatī. More important, they established direct links with Āyatallāh Ḵomeynī during his exile in Naǰaf, the first of many student delegations from North America and Europe went to see him there in 1965. Given these links, as well as the continuous though remote involvement of the associations in the development of the Islamic movement inside Iran, it is not surprising that many of their former members rose to positions of prominence in the Islamic Republic.

During the revolution of 1978-79, the Islamic associations that had formerly been confined to a few professions proliferated spontaneously throughout the country, so that few workplaces remained without one. In many instances these new associations served as strike committees; they also issued declarations and helped in organizing mass demonstrations. They have survived into the period of the Islamic Republic and form an important element in the network of revolutionary institutions. Their chief role appears to be assisting in the maintenance of political and ideological solidarity; in addition, they have given weapons training to their members and gathered contributions in cash and kind for the war effort against Iraq. Finally, with respect to the Islamic associations in revolutionary Iran, it may be noted that the original 300-person nucleus of the organization that occupied the United States embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1980, the Dānešǰūyān-e Mosalmān-e Peyrow-e Ḵaṭṭ-e Emām (Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam), was composed of members of the Islamic students’ associations at the four major institutions of higher learning in Tehran.



Bāzargān, Modāfaʿāt, pp. 78-88.

Jonbeš-e dānešǰūʾī-e ḵāreǰ az kešvar, undated publication of the Anǰoman-e Eslāmī-e Dānešǰūyān-e Emrīkā wa Kānādā, pp. 36-47.

(H. Algar)

iii. Literary

Anǰoman-e adabī “literary society,” a feature of Persian urban literary life that began in the 12th/18th century and became widespread after the Constitutional Revolution. The main purposes of such societies were to provide a forum for discussion and the recitation of poetry, to create or edit works, and to publish journals. The earliest such society appears to have been organized by Mīr Sayyed ʿAlī Moštāq of Isfahan (d. 1171/1757-58), whose group led the “literary return” movement (bāzgašt-e adabī, ʿA. Eqbāl, introduction to Dīvān-e Hātef Eṣfahānī, ed. W. Dastgerdī, Tehran, 1312 Š./1933; repr. 1345 Š./1965, p. 10; and Dīvān-e Moštāq, ed. H. Makkī, Tehran, 1320 Š./1941, intro., pp. 14, 20, 24). The first officially sponsored literary society was the Anǰoman-e Ḵāqān, founded by a group of court poets at the order of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah Qāǰār (r. 1212-50 Š./1797-1834) to prepare the Taḏkera-ye Anǰoman-e Ḵāqān, which was completed in 1234 Š./1818-19 (Goḷčīn-e Maʿānī, Taḏkerahā I, pp. 46-53, 60-67; Y. Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, I, p. 193). During the Constitutional period, literary societies began to appear more frequently. One of the first was the Šerkat-e Farhang, founded in about 1328/1910 by a group of young liberals from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Justice. Its first president was Moḥammad-ʿAlī Forūḡī, and among its active members were ʿAbdallāh Mostawfī and Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Dāvar. The members wrote, translated, and staged plays to raise money for the society’s publishing activities (ʿA. Mostawfī, Šarḥ-e zendagānī-e man, repr. Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, II, pp. 315-16). In 1335/1916-17, Rašīd Yāsamī and others organized the Jarga-ye Dānešvarī; this society was taken over in the following year by M. T. Bahār, who changed its name to Anǰoman-e Dāneškada. Its purposes were to discuss new and timely subjects using traditional forms of poetry and prose and to encourage respect for great literary works of the past. The society’s journal, Dāneškada, appeared in 1297-98 Š./1918-19 (R. Yāsamī, Adabīyāt-e moʿāṣer, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937, p. 119; Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā II, pp. 430, 436).

Most of the literary societies founded before 1925 suffered as a result of their political involvements. Such was the case with the Anǰoman-e Adabī-e Īrān, founded in 1299 Š./1920 by Ḥ. Waḥīd Dastgerdī. The society was officially recognized by the Ministry of Education (Wezārat-e Maʿāref), and branches were founded in Hamadān, Isfahan, and Shiraz. It ceased functioning in Bahman, 1310 Š./1932 after losing both its initial reputation and many of its prominent members. It was later revived but apparently did not last very long (Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā II, pp. 430-31; F. Machalski, La Littérature de l’Iran contemporain II, Wrocław, 1967, passim).

Waḥīd renewed his efforts and in 1311 Š./1932 founded the Anǰoman-e Ḥakīm Neẓāmī with a more clearly defined purpose; over the years it edited and published more than forty classical texts, in addition to publishing the journal Armaḡān (Armaḡān 15, 1314 Š./1935, p. 726; 23, 1327 Š./1948, pp. 34-38; 45, 2535 [1355 Š./]/1976, pp. 449-53).

An internationally oriented literary society was the Anǰoman-e Rawābeṭ-e Farhangī-e Īrān bā Etteḥād-e Jamāhīr-e Šūrawī, founded in 1322 Š./1943 to encourage cultural cooperation between Iran and the USSR, especially in literature and the fine arts. Although not sponsored by the government, it counted among its members high government officials and important literary figures. Political difficulties caused its journal, Payām-e now, to cease publication in Esfand, 1333 Š./1955; this was succeeded in 1337 Š./1958 by a new journal, Payām-e novīn. The society organized the first Congress of Iranian Writers in 1325 Š./1946 and published the proceedings that year.

The aims of the Anǰoman-e Ketāb, organized in 1337 Š./1958 by Ehsan Yarshater, were to institute a book club and a lending library, to circulate collections of books to villages, to publish bibliographies, and to award an annual prize for the best book of the year. In the same year Yarshater, with the assistance of Īraǰ Afšār, founded the journal Rāhnāma-ye ketāb for book reviews and literary scholarship (Rāhnāma-ye ketāb 1, 1337 Š./1958, pp. 94-95, 224, 354-55; private communication from Yarshater).

In 1347 Š./1968 a group of writers and intellectuals founded the Kānūn-e Nevīsandagān-e Īrān, primarily in order to combat censorship. It was denied official recognition, and within two years governmental pressure and internal dissention silenced the organization. In 1356 Š./1977 official recognition was again requested and denied. That October, the group organized ten nights of poetry readings in Tehran; these resulted in violent anti-government protests and one death. After the revolution it attempted a similar protest with no success, and soon its office was ransacked by a mob (Ḡ. Ḥ. Sāʿedī, “Farhangkošī wa honarzadāʾī dar jomhūrī-e eslāmī,” Alefbā, N.S. 1, [Paris], 1361 Š./1982, p. 7); by 1359 Š./1980 all of its activities had ceased. In Mordād, 1361 Š./1982 several prominent writers announced the formation of the Kānūn-e Nevīsandagān-e Īrān dar Tabʿīd in Paris (private communication of F. Mīlanī; Īrān wa ǰahān 3, no. 118, 15 Āḏar 1361 Š./6 December 1982, p. 15).

Bibliography: Given in the text.

(W. L. Hanaway, Jr.)

(M. Bayat, H. Algar, W. L. Hanaway, Jr.)

Originally Published: December 15, 1985

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 1, pp. 77-83